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Flexibility holds key to the future

2000 & Beyond

THIS week we mark the start of the new millennium with a special look at what the first decade of the 21st century holds for construction.

Predicting the future is a difficult task, prone to error and exaggeration. Forecasters are the first to admit the only thing that is ever really certain is the uncertainty of predictions.

That said, there is very good reason to sweep aside the inevitable feeling in the air that nothing will really change after such a big celebration in the calendar.

The new decade promises a period of stable and strong growth, something as unfamiliar to contractors as being paid on time.

Transport will be high on the political agenda, with roads spending set to rise again as the strength of the motoring lobby dawns on government.

Even prospects for office and leisure building, after a recent strong spate of growth, seems sound as the move back to town centres gathers pace and office requirements change.

Modernisation is inevitable. And, if anything, the pace of reform and drive for innovation is accelerating both globally and locally.

A paperless site office is fast approaching so firms that fail to invest and utilise the latest information technology can expect to suffer.

Working in time-honoured ways will no longer be sufficient to maintain a firm footing, let alone grow. Nor will resolutions to develop standardised building components and forge relations with the supply chain be enough.

If such a culture is not already rooted after five years of post-Latham debate and work, then something is amiss.

The future promises to be bright for firms that can think in innovative ways, spot gaps and opportunities, and respond quickly, investing in the right resources to deliver to high standards.

But to retain this culture will be as important as growing it. And this means paying better salaries and performance-related bonuses.

One thing is sure, construction in 2000 is better placed to meet these challenges than it has been for years.